Happy 85th Birthday Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev!

The book "Gorbachev in Life" is on display at the launch ceremony for a book about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Mikhail Gorbachev turns 85 on Wednesday, March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

The book “Gorbachev in Life” is on display at the launch ceremony for a book about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, Russia, on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016. Mikhail Gorbachev turns 85 on Wednesday, March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

A few days ago in Moscow, Mikhail Gorbachev launched his latest book, “Gorbachev in Life”, a 700-page collection of memories and documents from him and others about his life experiences and the way his glasnost (openness) and perestroika (reform) policies have transformed the world hoping that the book would help Russians better understand their current history.

The Gorbachev File

As he celebrates his 85th birthday, the National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org) has just released this morning a series of previously classified British and American documents with Western assessments of Gorbachev starting before he took office and until end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Manifesto for the Earth

5195AFR1PJL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_But one book that sheds light on Gorbachev’s commitment to the environment and social justice is his “Manifesto for the Earth”. Few would know that when he became Secretary-General of the Soviet Union in 1985, he got access to information about the scale of pollution coming from chemical plants and factories that were poisoning the environment and sickening people. One of the consequences of the glasnost reforms was access to previously classified information. As a result, the soviet people demanded action and over 1,300 of the most polluting plants were closed.

This is how President Gorbachev understood the power of civic engagement and the need to change the relationship and reconcile humanity and nature. Well before the fall of the Berlin Wall he called for the creation of a “Red Cross” for the environment. This idea was then raised during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Given the mounting crises of climate change, environmental degradation and social inequality, civil society leaders called for the creation of a Green Cross and for Gorbachev to lead this effort.

Green Cross International

This is how Green Cross International was launched in 1993. Today, Gorbachev is still at the helm of the organization as its chairman and Green Cross continues to work on addressing the challenges of security, poverty eradication and environmental degradation. With offices in some 30 countries, activities around the world and initiatives like the Earth Charter International and the Earth Dialogues, Gorbachev’s Green Cross story is still in the making.

Through his Manifesto for the Earth, Gorbachev describes how the story began and his quest for peace, social justice and a sustainable future for all.

Happy Birthday President Gorbachev!

Photo by Pavel Palaychenkoi

Photo: Pavel Palazchenko, Earth Dialogues in Geneva (2013)

Solutions COP21: Business and climate change

Of the largest 150 economic entities in the world 59% are not countries but corporations.  And when it comes to climate change, the private sector is largely responsible for the problem but also suffers its consequences – most importantly, business can play a central role in addressing the climate crisis by rapidly scaling up solutions for both mitigation and adaptation.

Solutions COP21

COP21_GrandPalais_NuitInnovation_4Dec15Over the last 18 months, “Solutions COP21”, led by the Comité 21, the Club France Développement Durable, Hopscotch Groupe and Alliantis communications, developed a platform to showcase business solutions to the public with existing products, services, processes and innovations (and more on the way) to fight climate change and its impacts.

During the COP, the Grand Palais in Paris became the showroom for leading corporations, entrepreneurs and local authorities to put on display their solutions. It also became a center for discussion and exchange on the role of private enterprise can play and how collaboration with other sectors can be improved.

Climate policy and enterprise risk management

IMG_20151204_155056That global warming is real and having serious impacts is no longer debated. Increasingly,  responding to this reality is becoming part public policy according to Anne Ged, Director General of the Agence Parisienne du Climat, adding that Paris has been working on its adaptation strategy since 2012. It is also increasingly part of the risk management processes at all levels. The French ministry of sustainable development assessed that a one-meter sea level rise would flood over 15,000 km of local roads across the Republic. Similarly in the private sector, Stefano Bonelli, senior consultant at the Environmental Resources Management consultancy (ERM), says that climate related risk management for corporations is one of their fastest growing business segments.

The urgent realities of climate change

For SNCF’s Director of sustainable Development, Christian Dubost, climate change  is already impacting its activities with extreme temperatures during heat waves deforming rails and igniting bushfires that result in delays and extra costs. He warns that by 2050, the  2003 heatwave will be the norm – a reality the SNCF is already preparing for now. Facing this future requires a better understanding of the challenges and improved cooperation between sectors. This is part of EPE’s (Entreprise pour L’Environnement) mandate, explains its Delegate General, Claire Tutenuit. We need platforms to share knowledge, experience and foster cross-sector cooperation, she adds. Such partnerships have allowed Veolia to recycle up to 98% of the water for industries in Durban, South Africa, benefiting industry and the environment explained Hélène Lebedeff, Director of Sustainable Development.

Partnering with nature

Leveraging ecosystem services by working collaboratively with nature can provide important co-benefits according to Philippe Thiévent, Director of CDC Biodiversité, explaining that we are only beginning to discover the value of wetlands as hotspots of biodiversity and their benefits in terms of water filtration, aquifer recharge and exceptional flood mitigation capacity. Harnessing such co-benefits can play an important role in mitigation and adaptation strategies and be very interesting from a social, environmental  but also from a business perspective.

Clearly an important consideration for business to become a force for good when it comes to climate action.

This article is based on the conference “Comment les entreprises s’adaptent aux dérèglements climatiques” organized on December 4, 2015, as part of SolutionsCOP21 at Le Grand Palais, Paris – Espace de conférence, by EPE (Entreprise pour L’Environnement). http://www.epe-asso.org

Participants: Agence Parisienne du Climat, Anne Ged, directrice générale, CDC Biodiversité, Philippe Thiévent, Directeur de CDC Biodiversité, ERM, Stefano Bonelli, consultant senior, Green Cross International, Adam Koniuszewski, Executive Director, SNCF, Christian Dubost, Directeur de l’environnement et du développement durable, Veolia, Hélène Lebedeff, Directrice adjointe du développement durable. The event was moderated by Claire Tutenuit, Entreprise pour l’Environnement. 

COP21 – The birth of humanity

IMG_0188Here are some thoughts from Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, journalist, writer and Vice Chairperson of the Human Rights Watch board, on the historical climate agreement announced on December 12 at Le Bourget in Paris. I was honored to join Jean-Louis and Corinne Lepage to speak at the Conference on Youth (COY) that preceded the climate talks to present the Declaration of Rights of Humankind and its importance to youth and future generations. FRENCH VERSION

COP21 – The birth of humanity

The memory of the media will keep this joyful scene at Le Bourget when the announcement of the agreement at the COP21 was made. Since then, objections, criticism and analysis of its shortcomings abound. They were inevitable and many are warranted.

But the most important when it comes to the future of humanity could not be rational. The collective emotion, even fleeting, gave the world images of what has inspired us to come together. In this digital era, we will see these images again and again, so as no to forget that what unites us is ultimately more powerful then what divides us.

To meet this challenge, a snap of fingers will not be sufficient. It will take decades of effort by activists, governments, scientists, associations, artists and others. But most of all, it will be for each new generation to discover the world in which it lives.

This moment of unanimity gave existence to humanity, beyond nations, beliefs or interests. We felt for a few minutes how this little flame, nascent, fragile, still wavering, was for us and our children so infinitely precious.

The emotion of this final between negotiators exhausted and radiant is already listed heritage. 

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

 

 

COP21 – La naissance de l’humanité

IMG_0188

Voici quelques réflexions de Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber, journaliste, écrivain et membre du conseil d’administration de Human Rights Watch, sur l’accord sur le climat annoncé le 12 Décembre au Bourget à Paris. Avec Jean-Louis et Corinne Lepage nous avons présenté la Déclaration des droits de l’Humanité durant la Conférence sur la Jeunesse (Conference on Youth – COY) qui a précédé les négociations sur le climat. ENGLISH VERSION

COP21 – La naissance de l’humanité

La mémoire des médias gardera cette scène de liesse au Bourget dès l’annonce de l’accord climatique à la COP21. Depuis les objections, critiques et analyses de ses insuffisances ne manquent pas. Elles étaient inévitables et beaucoup sont fondées.

Mais le plus important quand il s’agit de l’avenir de l’humanité ne pouvait pas être que rationnel. L’émotion collective, même fugace a offert au monde, les images de ce qui nous rend tous solidaires. Grâce au numérique, nous les reverrons encore et encore, pour que personne ne puisse oublier que ce qui nous lie est plus impératif que ce qui nous divise.

Pour transformer cet essai, il ne suffira pas, comme au rugby d’un coup de pied magique. Il faudra, des décennies durant, les efforts des militants, des gouvernants, des savants, des associations, des artistes. Mais, plus que tout de chaque nouvelle génération découvrant le monde dans lequel elle va devoir vivre.

Ce moment d’unanimité a donné existence à l’humanité, au-delà des nations, des croyances, des intérêts. On a senti, pendant quelques minutes combien cette petite flamme naissante, fragile, encore vacillante, nous était pour nous et nos enfants si infiniment précieuse.

L’émotion de ce final entre négociateurs épuisés et rayonnants s’est déjà inscrite patrimoine de l’humanité.

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

Smartphones explode power bills!

I was intrigued yesterday morning when I heard the Virgin Radio (France) host saying that mobile owners pay €70 a month to power their smartphones, ipods, tablets and laptops. It turns out this number relates to the annual cost but the point is no less alarming. The average household spends around €1,400/year on energy of which some €900 relate to electricity. According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), 14% of this electricity relates to recharging phones and other devices – a very high figure which exceeds even the share of lighting that comes to 12%.

Smartphone

The agency warns that most of this power is wasted when the phone is left to charge overnight, even when it is turned off. The residual power that is wasted when devices are plugged in represents a pure waste equivalent to two nuclear power plants operating permanently at full capacity and a cost of €2 billion.

Imagine what could be achieved if such funds were invested into speeding the transition to a clean energy future.

Some smart ideas:

  • Most phones can be charged in two hours – leaving them to charge overnight is costly and wasteful.
  • Get an external battery to provide more autonomy when needed.
  • Go for a solar or wind powered charger!
  • Charge your phone as you ride – Check out CITYCYCLE.COM at LINK for great Christmas ideas for your favorite cyclist!soporte-finn-de-bike-city-guide1

COP21: more than expected, short of what’s needed

After over 20 years of climate talks, 195 countries reached a “universal, fair, dynamic and binding agreement” to “save the planet” by keeping global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees. The mood was euphoric and some delegates were in tears after the three sleepless nights that concluded ParisClimat2015. Having followed the preparations of this global forum, I was impressed by the efforts of the city of Paris, the French authorities and particularly by the personal engagement of the French President for an ambitious and historic outcome.

1.5 degrees target

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1.5 degrees target

I am proud that Canada, after a decade of obstruction and denial under the Harper administration, has come out in favor of a 1.5 degree objective under the leadership of newly-elected Justin Trudeau. Staying “well below 2 degrees” is now the stated target of the world community and Canada is back as a constructive force on the world scene. This leadership will be needed to if we are to turn this lofty objective into something meaningful in terms of climate action.

“Aspirational” Objective

The 1.5 degree goal reflects calls of small island states, climate scientists and civil society but the new ambitions do not yet translate into commensurate actions that would even have a remote chance of meeting the original so-called “safe” target of 2 degrees, let alone 1.5 – which would require much faster reductions in green-house-gases and methods of taking back some of the carbon that has already been emitted.

Growing science and reality gap 

Scientists have been warning that there is a time lag between the moment when carbon is released and the resulting temperature increase. This means that on top of the 0.9 degrees of warming that we are already experiencing, there is an extra 0.6 degrees that is already pre-programmed for the future – Dr. Thomas Frölicher, researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has produced some interesting work in this area. For these reasons, in time we will reach the 1.5 degree target and beyond as we continue to burn carbon.

On track for 3 degrees and more

Commitments by member states for COP21 put us on the 3 degree or more path. Well above the 1.5 degree goal. It is therefore urgent to transform this new target into meaningful policy, to change business models and make sure that we all change our behaviors – something that is far from achieved and which implies much deeper emission cuts then was is currently planned.

Timing is critical

Delegates and politicians still think that climate change is a slow, gradual and linear process. This is not supported by science. In fact, the process is not-linear and there is now a real risk of hitting tipping points that could accelerate climate disruptions with catastrophic consequences. This is why the 2020 entry into force and the 5-year reviews that would start in 2025 are disappointing.

Common but differentiated responsibilities

All countries will have to participate in the carbon reductions but rich countries must help to finance this transition in the developing world by contributing a minimum of $100 billion per year starting in 2020 – a figure that will be revised upwards in 2025. The good news is that new powerhouses like China and South Korea will contribute to this effort. It is also encouraging that countries like India will adopt a low-carbon path for their development, something that was far from achieved just a few days ago.

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Wind Energy Tree at COP21 in Paris

The end of the fossil fuel era

One message from the COP is  that the good days of the fossil fuel era are behind us. Fossil fuel subsidies should be phased-out and we will move towards a price on carbon to speed up the transition to a clean energy economy.

Just the beginning

As Chinese President Xi Jinping said at the opening of COP21 on November 30th, this agreement is just the beginning of a process, echoing warnings from British Climate Ambassador, Sir David King, that carbon reduction targets must be reviewed regularly to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future. From where we stand today and despite decades of work, it sure seems that we are still at ground zero.

Building Retrofits for Economic Stability and Energy Security

The 25th edition of the Krynica Economic Forum (Poland), the “little Davos of CEE”, took place a few weeks ago. After the opening with the Polish, Croatian and Macedonian Presidents on building a Resilient Europe, I took part in a panel organized by “The European Alliance of Companies for Energy Efficiency in Buildings” (EuroACE) on the economics and energy security aspects of renovating European buildings. A most timely topic as most buildings are energy colanders, and hence account for 40% of energy used in the EU – where more then half the energy is imported at a cost of €400+ billion.

Adrian Joyce. Archives of the Economic Forum, Krynica, Poland.

EuroACE’s Adrian Joyce reminded us that over 75% of European buildings have a very low performance level, and are a major source of energy waste and economic instability given Europe’s reliance on foreign energy. Yamina Saheb, from the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, pointed to the economic opportunity for growth, job creation and side benefits like better air quality, health and productivity, key elements for prosperity and wellbeing in a sector that contributes 7% of EU GDP and 12 million direct jobs, adding that an ambitious renovation programme could create another 5 million jobs by 2030.

Oyvind Aarvig, from the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, stressed the need to renovate existing buildings given that 80% of the buildings in 2050 have already been built. He raised the challenge of urban sprawl and renovating is not enough; we must also increased building density intelligently to create sustainable communities where people want to live. Andre Delpont, from the Bordeaux-Euratlantique Public Planning Authority, concurred that energy efficiency coupled with densification in large-scale urban regeneration projects is key to attracting investors.

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Archives of the Economic Forum, Krynica, Poland.

The city of Krakow, one of Europe’s most polluted cities because of coal burning, is opting for large-scale energy retrofits aiming to improve efficiency by 50% and co-financing its €500 million program through European Structural Funds. For Witold Smialek, Advisor to the Mayor of Krakow, the biggest obstacle is inability of owners and tenants to contribute their small contribution to the project and that is slowing down progress but in the end, he feels this can be resolved. Over 80% of Polish buildings have more than 25 years and are in need of renovation according to Oliver Rapf, Executive Director of the BPIE, meaning that the economic and social potential in renovating the building stock in the country is enormous. He commended the ambitious works in Krakow as an exemplary project that other Polish cities should replicate.

I commented that appropriate building technologies, including insulation, windows and lighting, can significantly reduce energy requirements and thereby costs, while boosting energy security in Poland and Europe. Replacing the 6,500 windows in New York’s Empire State building with energy efficient windows was one of the key elements that helped reduce energy consumption by 43% and saved $4.4 million annually with a payback of 3 years. The potential for the renovation of buildings, both in Poland and in the world is enormous.

Energy Utility Resistance

Attila Nyikos, from the Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority, warned that reduced energy consumption meant lower revenues for energy utilities, as they must amortize massive fixed costs on a lower sales volume leading to higher energy rates for consumers, adding that occupants suffer while buildings undergo renovation works. He gave examples where owners refused free renovations because they wanted to avoid the inconvenience.

Takeaways:

  • When renovating a district, densification is key to attracting investors
  • Selecting the right timing for an energy retrofit and implementing integrated solutions is crucial to improve ROI
  • Multiple benefits can be important drivers (air quality, etc.) an inspire ambitious projects
  • Mixing local and EU funds is an effective answer to lack of upfront financing
  • To release the significant potential tied up in the existing building stock in Poland (and in the EU!) t is time to act. We need to start the work now (with proper planning), without delay!

Another important consideration is the need to align the interests of all parties involved. It is obvious that energy utilities will not promote effective energy efficiency programs if their profits depend on their volume of sales. Similar dilemmas exist between owners of building and tenants – owners will invest in measures to reduce energy bills if they see a real benefit for themselves. Regulatory measures (decoupling) can overcome such problems and are increasingly being deployed in America where utilities share part of the savings they generate for their customers. This sounds like a good starting for policy makers.